by Jeff Taylor
Now it is all starting to make sense. First, we had the assault on ballot access by the General Assembly. On the left the Green Party is shut out and on the right it is the Libertarian Party
“Once again, the legislature leaves North Carolina with arguably the most burdensome ballot access restrictions in the nation,” said Brian Irving, a Libertarian. “In terms of democratic access to the ballot, North Carolina and Alabama rank at the very bottom.”
This state of affairs, of course, insulates the ruling powers in Raleigh from organized competition.
Now, in the name of “ethics reform,” we have a bid to regulate, and thereby deter and diminish, political speech and advocacy in North Carolina. As near as I can tell, state government is moving to regulate this very blog and any other outspoken source of political commentary.
The outspoken yet still rational John Hood has more:
I strongly believe the state legislature needs to reform ethics and lobbying laws. It need to takes the time to do it right, however. That means clearly distinguishing between influence-peddling, lobbying, and advocacy:
• Influence peddling is the illegal use of personal gifts, cash, campaign contributions, or other items of value to purchase a governmental decision. In addition to investigating and prosecuted specific allegations of influence peddling, government should adopt rules that limit the opportunities and temptations to engage in this behavior.
• Lobbying is the perfectly legal exercise of the freedoms to speak, print, assemble, and petition directly to government officials, often on or in some other fashion utilizing public property, to convince officials either to vote in a certain way on a certain bill or to make a certain decision. It is appropriate to require disclosure of who is engaged in formal lobbying and how it is being financed, so as to assist public and private institutions seeking to ensure that lobbying does not become influence-peddling, much as it is appropriate to require disclosure of donors and amounts given to political campaigns (I would continue the parallel and argue that it is wrong to impose dollar limitations on either lobbying or political activism).
• Advocacy is the perfectly legal exercise of the freedoms to speak, print, and assemble to express one’s views on public-policy issues. Whether it is a newspaper editorial or column, a campus-based protest or forum, a panel discussion sponsored by a trade association, a political talk show on TV, a policy paper by a scholar or policy analyst, a blog moderated by a private political junkie, or a public debate sponsored by a think tank, advocacy is not lobbying as long as the intended audience is general, not limited to decisionmakers, and it is not merely a device for using third parties to carry out what would otherwise be a lobbying function (such as a lobbying group using a phone bank to link voters to their lawmakers to expressly advocate the passage or defeat of a bill).
What should be absolutely out of the question is the idea that government can properly regulate the activities of private citizens’ ability to organize and express their views to their fellow private citizens. Believe it or not, the bill as currently written does precisely that.
Yes, that and a whole lot more. Taken together, the ballot access changes and the new bid to regulate political views and expression are a frontal attack on political freedom in North Carolina. No matter where you are on the political spectrum this should be an outrageous development. The only segment of the political firmament which benefits from these changes — and I mean the only — are those cretins now in power.
If you stand with them — great, you’ll be allowed to speak, and organize, and lobby, and plead, and beg. Most of all beg. They like it when you beg.
But if you oppose the Down East kleptocracy now entrenched in Raleigh, get ready for the muzzle.
PS — Does North Carolina still have a free press? It is like living in Albania in the 1970s. Go cover that Enver Hoxha speech, boys. The world is waiting.